Healthcare Business News

Medicare sequestration cuts extended to 2024 as veteran benefits restored

By Paul Demko
Posted: February 12, 2014 - 6:45 pm ET

Cuts to Medicare that were part of the sequestration deal will be extended by one year—to 2024—to reverse a cut to pension benefits for veterans, under legislation passed Tuesday and Wednesday by lopsided votes in the House and Senate. President Barack Obama is widely expected to sign the bill.

The Senate passed legislation reversing the cut to pension benefits for veterans under the age of 62 Wednesday by a 95-3 vote.

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The House passed the measure Tuesday by a 326-90 vote margin. Previously, House Republicans had considered tying the pension proposal to an extension of the debt ceiling. But after House Speaker John Boehner opted to move forward with a clean debt ceiling bill, the chamber passed the pension bill separately.

Hospitals unsuccessfully sought to thwart the extension of the sequestration cuts. “Medicare is meant to assure seniors access to needed medical care, not serve as a piggybank for other programs,” according to a letter sent to legislators from the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and seven other organizations. “It is bad policy to further extend Medicare sequester cuts that could undermine care for seniors.”

Just weeks ago, Congress passed legislation that cut the cost-of-living adjustment for veterans under the age of 62 by 1%—a total reduction of $6 billion. But cutting benefits for veterans is always politically perilous and this week's votes reverse that decision.

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko

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